As police unleashed streams of icy water Sunday night against Dakota Access pipeline demonstrators, Linda Black Elk, a member of the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, was helping care for injured demonstrators. The council estimated that 300 people were treated for injuries, including 26 who were taken to area hospitals.
“What it was like was people walking through the dark of a winter North Dakota night, some of them so cold, and sprayed with water for so long, that their clothes were frozen to their body and crunching as they walked. So you could hear this crunching sound and this pop-pop-pop, and people yelling [to the police], ‘We’ll pray for you! We love you!” Black Elk said, describing the scene as police sprayed protesters with water and fired tear gas and rubber bullets during the more than six-hour standoff.
“All of a sudden there were these bright, blinding spotlights, so you could see each other, but you couldn’t see [the police],” she said. “Every once in awhile you could hear someone scream who had been hit by a rubber bullet.”
In the midst of the clash, the Medic and Healer Council, which was set up to provide health support to those fighting the pipeline, released a statement pleading with police to halt the use of water cannons. “As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions,” the statement said.